Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal might not be familiar names, but their distinctive illustration style – especially across their gorgeous book cover designs for Everyman Library’s PG Wodehouse collection – is instantly recognisable.
The married couple and creative collaborators are now the stars of a new show dedicated to their work across graphic design, portraits, linocuts and more, titled Theatre of Dreams. Held at the Brutalist-style POSK (Polish Social and Cultural Association) Gallery in Hammersmith, London, the show is part of the Granville-Skarbek Anglo-Polish Cultural Exchange programme, which “celebrates the contribution of the Polish diaspora to British culture and society” through events and exhibitions, plus an online museum and research hub.
Klimowski and Schejbal are well-known for their work on graphic novels, including their book, titled Behind the Curtain. Billed as a “portrait of life as an artist behind the Iron Curtain”, it follows the lives of two young art students and their vibrant community against the backdrop of the soaring prices, social unrest, and military presence in Poland in the 1970s.
Klimowski and Schejbal’s Polish roots are central to this exhibition, with the show focusing on the confluence of their influences from England, where they were born, and Poland. The pair – whose parents sought refuge in the UK having fought for the Polish resistance during the Second World War – went to art school in London, but also spent time living and studying in Warsaw.
The exhibition features a new linocut series by Klimowski, including a portrait of Krystyna Skarbek – better known by her pseudonym Christine Glanville, a master spy during the Second World War who was admired by Winston Churchill and inspired Ian Fleming (and is the namesake of the Anglo-Polish cultural exchange itself).
Other Polish figures whose portraits appear include writer Joseph Conrad, artist Feliks Topolski, dancer and teacher Marie Rambert, philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, and composer Andrzej Panufnik. “I came up with the idea of making a set of linocut portraits of prominent Polish personalities living and working in the UK,” says Klimowski. “These were inspired by a set of linocut portraits I made of Russian Constructivists for a show marking the Russian Revolution at the London Print Studio a few years ago.”
The pair’s personal relationship with England is reflected throughout the show; presenting their work for British clients and delineating Klimowski’s roles as head of illustration and now Professor Emeritus at the Royal College of Art. His film poster designs will also be on show, as well as book covers from across the PG Wodehouse collection, and an illustrated version of The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.